My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Take This Job And.....

2006-12-20

The other day as I was driving to work and giving the middle finger to yet ANOTHER fucking new subdivision going up (with “houses in the $600s” – crass!) on perfectly good farm land, I noticed the “model home open” sign stuck into the empty field (a field that is not long for this world, sadly). I suddenly remembered when I was, for a day, a house sitter for just such a model home for just such a home building company.

It was a temp job. I’ve had many. I think I was subbing for a woman out on maternity leave and mostly my job consisted of sitting at the front desk (and I am SO not a front desk kind of person: shit, someone’s coming in the door. Is it too late to duck under my desk? Yes, how can I help you, sir?) and typing letters, answering the phone, yadda yadda.

One day, though, the vice president (who spent quite a bit of time selling houses...while on the golf course) asked if I’d like to sit in the model home out on Suburbia Terrace (Directions: from the highway, take exit 666. Take a left onto Suburbia Circle, a right on Suburbia Drive. Suburbia Terrace is the last cul-de-sac on the left. A house that looks like every other. Ya can’t miss it!) for a couple of hours.

Would I? And leave all this? Sure, Chip! For you, anything!

And so I spent the day wandering around in a fully furnished (though not my taste) house with electricity and running water but a fake television. And I couldn’t play the radio. Which, is not really a problem since I am okay with silence.

This was way, way before I got married or had kids. I walked around the house pretending it was mine, even though it was a style I hated – weird vaulted ceilings at odd angles and windows way up high where no human could possibly keep them clean. There were little steps everywhere. It was supposed to give the illusion that the living room was sunken (if I’m going to have a sunken living room, I’d rather have one of those pits like in Hard Day’s Night) [EDIT: No, not HDN. I think's it's Help! that has the pit.] but actually was just annoying to go up three steps to the hallway, up three steps to the kitchen. I spent a lot of time stumbling over my feet. I can’t imagine how bad off I’d be if I actually did live in a house like that. It was the opposite of handicapped accessible. Plus, there was no food in the refrigerator which was a stone cold drag.

I mentioned somewhere lately that during my first year of college, I scrubbed toilets. In the dorms. As my work-study job. Welcome to college! Wanna clean up after college girls? Oh, sure, that sounds great. And it pays $100 a month? I’m so there!

Yes, I scrubbed toilets, showers and sinks in a number of dorms on campus. I washed hallways and rubbed elbows with girls who previously had been nice to me until they saw me cleaning up their filth. I made a lot of friends that year. I transferred to another college the following spring.

But actually, it wasn’t so bad. No job is beneath me. I'll do any job if I'm left the hell alone. The only thing I really suck at is answering the phone. Especially if it’s got more than one line. I would clean toilets any day rather than answer a phone and be a receptionist. I am just incompetent when it comes to phones. That is probably one reason I do not own a cell phone. I just don’t get it.

Other jobs I’ve had:

- Fast Food. Back in the day, you needed experience to work at McDonalds. I am not kidding. So when the Multi-Death Corporation opened a branch near my house, I had to go work at Wendy’s for two weeks before MDC (McD?) would hire me. At Wendy’s I got to transfer a huge bucket of pickle slices into another huge bucket. With my bare hands! Needless to say, I do not often eat in restaurants anymore. There are no guarantees. Would you like an e coli pie with that? I worked at MDC the summer before leaving for college...to scrub toilets.

- Dry Cleaners. I worked for a Korean family who owned a dry cleaning store. How did they make money? By cleaning people’s clothes? No, by not taking my W-4 and paying me under the table. Plus, only the son spoke English and he wasn’t there very often so any questions I might have had about my general duties were greeted with shrugs and blank stares. I quit after a month.

- Acupuncture Technician. Yes. I was hired by a pain doctor to transcribe his mutterings from cassette tape to patient files. I do not now and did not then have any previous medical lingo experience so I made huge errors all the time since I typed what he said phonetically. Which was bad, apparently. I was also asked to book appointments when patients called but because I wasn’t actually trained, I did this wrong, too, not realizing that some visits would take longer than others. So, instead of firing me, the doctor brought me into the patient rooms. Many of his patients received acupuncture treatments. I was given the control box that adjusted the level of electricity flowing through the needles into the patients’...body parts. Untrained Mad Scientist™!* That was me! I quit that after two months. The whole set-up was ridiculous. I had no respect for a doctor who would hire ME to administer medical treatments. WTF?

- Caterer. My mother ran a small catering business from her kitchen for many years after she and my dad divorced. We did weddings and holiday parties, mostly. We made dozens of little mushroom tarts and canapés of various shapes and sizes and cakes with rolled, fondant icing. This was actually my favorite job because not only did I get to spend a lot of time cooking with my mom, but at the parties, while I passed around trays of hors d’oeuvres, I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I didn’t have to make small talk. I was the hired help, not a guest. I could speak if spoken to (mainly answering the question, "What's in this?") but otherwise I could wander around, invisible, and eavesdrop on others’ conversations.

- Collections. The worst temp job I ever had was at the collections office of a huge university hospital. The bitch-on-wheels boss was far too busy and important (she was a lawyer) to explain my job or explain how she expected letters to look, phone calls to be handled, etc. Her lackeys had to do it. But only after watching me helplessly flounder around for awhile. The letter and memo typing was bad enough but the calls were the worst. Every person calling was crying because they’d just received an enormous bill from the hospital that they had no hope of ever paying. I had no answers for them and was barely competent enough to transfer the calls to someone who did. I’ve never been so exhausted – mentally – in my life. I lasted a week. The b-o-w boss couldn’t even fire me face to face. She made her next-in-command do it for her. Which was just as well because n-i-c was nice and understanding and hinted that b-o-w was despised by all. I felt marginally better but I was still out of a job.

Speaking of jobs, this is my last day in the office until January 2nd. I’ll be back here, sporadically, between now and then. Y’all have a good holiday – if it’s one you celebrate!

* That’s for you, Harriet!

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9:50 a.m. ::
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